How to Choreograph a Routine (and Enjoy It!)

by | Education, The Art of Performing

Who are you choreographing your routine for?

Are you working on a routine for yourself, or are you doing it to teach someone else, or a class of people? Are you doing it for a competition to showcase your best moves?

Depending on your answer, this changes your routine and the pacing you set.

For example, if you’re doing a routine for yourself, then there’s a good chance that you want to feel good in your routine, have fun and feel free.

If you’re trying to teach a class, you’ll want to teach moves that look good and can accommodate everyone’s skill level while still pushing their abilities ever so slightly.

If you’re doing a competition, then you’ll want to showcase your best, most innovative moves with good pacing and a strong storyline or concept.

What energy do you want to portray?

Are you aiming for elegance? Power? Sensuality?

Now that you’ve nailed down who you’re choreographing your routine for, you can move on to what you want your routine to feel like.

Choose a song that represents the main element you’d like to portray in your choreography. If you already have a song picked out, then make sure it represents that energy that you want. If it doesn’t – don’t be afraid to throw it out and look for a new song that does fit your energy.

Listen to your music, try to feel the emotion and energy in the different sounds and rhythms that the artist chose. Learn what the song is about and think about what it means to you.

Does that fit what you’re working towards? The end result that you want to see?

What is Your Style?

So, you’ve established what kind of energy you want to portray, but it’s also important to think about whether this aligns with your natural style.

Do you consider yourself more lyrical, entertaining, or dramatic? More strength and fitness focused, or exotic and sensual?

Don’t feel like you have to stick to just one, either.

Consider what moves you always default to when you’re trying to fill up space in a routine. What movements feel natural and fun to you?

When you’re looking to portray a type of energy that you feel doesn’t come as easily to you, it’s important not to make it look forced – which means it’s important to understand the differences, and find a way to seamlessly balance the two.

What Story Do You Want to Tell?

What story are you telling your audience? A good routine, especially in competitions, is going to tell the audience a story and draw them in. They’re there to watch and be entertained, after all!

Keep this in mind when you run through your song.

If it has words, what actions can you use to emphasize the words you want the audience to focus on?

If you are using props, what can you use to emphasize your story as a whole?

What moves can you use to make an impact on the audience, and when?

 

If you’re feeling stuck, you can always make a mind map or list of the tricks you know, starting with the basics and moving up.

The Pacing of Your Routine

In our article How to Build a Show, we showed you how to pace a show using the 2 – 3 – 1 concept, which we’ll recap here:

How you pace your show sets the scene and perpetuates the rest of the routine. It’s also important to keep yourself at this pacing so you don’t tire yourself out.

In the beginning, you should showcase your second best trick.

The middle should be your least impressive tricks – the filler content: the least energy-intensive, yet it is what makes up the substance of the show.

In the end, you should showcase your showstopper. It’s called that for a reason! The best trick you have in the bag, the most impressive – something that will leave the audience’s jaw on the floor.

So: what are your three highlighting moves – your 2nd best, your 3rd best, and your absolute best? 

Now, all you have to do is work backwards. How do you need to get into that move? Where do you need to go from your previous Best Trick? From there, you can stitch together all the moves in-between.

Unless your routine is solely pole-focused, or solely-floorwork focused, you’ll also want to make sure that you give each element of your routine attention. Give the floor attention, give spin pole attention, and give static pole attention.

A way you can simulate this in the studio classroom, if you have the space, is by having everyone move to another pole, or move back and forth between poles.

Tips to Remember

 

 

Your Transitions are Where You Dance

We are pole dancers, aren’t we? Then why isn’t there more dance in the typical routine? Your transitions are where you facilitate that movement, the extra extension, the long, dramatic pause.

It’s important to keep your transitions smooth. Never rush through them; you might lose the effect in your whole choreography.  

Yes, these moments blend into your routine, but it can make or break a routine. It’s an excellent skill to nurture, and can make all the difference in a competition.

 

 

Don’t Feel Like You Have to Showcase Everything

When you’re first beginning to work on choreography, you may be tempted to jam all the tricks and transitions and moves that you can in, but it’s going to upset your pacing and you’re going to tire yourself out.

Give your tricks space and work on taking more time in your transitions. This is your chance to throw in a little personal flare, showcase a facial expression, or engage the audience.

It’s totally normal to try and plan out every beat of your song, but if it doesn’t tire you out, then it’s going to hamper the performance part of your choreography. If you miss one move, you might start to rush, or you may just look like a robot!

 

 

Be Okay with Change

If something isn’t working in your routine, it doesn’t mean that you lost a move, or you can’t do it. It just means that move isn’t right for the routine.

It’s important to understand this and be okay with moving onto a different move or transition if something doesn’t work. Don’t force it, and you’ll find yourself happier in not only performing the routine, but also in how you feel about pole and about practice.

 

 

It’s Okay to Innovate

Don’t feel like you’re stuck in a box and that you have to perform moves to the letter of the law.

If you’re performing in a competition, yes, they might take points off for something being “incorrect” depending on the venue and the category, so keep in mind the rules and ask the judges if you’re unsure – but the biggest thing to remember is that you don’t need to be afraid to experiment and play around with new shapes and new moves. That’s how many of the moves we know today came about!

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